The Slovenia Times

NIJZ proposes two-tier Covid system for autumn, winter


Ljubljana - The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) presented on Thursday a two-phase approach to dealing with the coronavirus this autumn and winter, with epidemiologist Mario Fafangel underlining the importance of predictability of measures.

If the government approves the plan, in phase 1 measures such as masks and work from home will be recommended for potential high-risk patients, while in phase 2 many measures will become mandatory or stepped up.

Vaccination will not be mandatory in either phase, Fafangel underlined, as he presented the measures put together by the advisory group of the NIJZ.

The transition from phase 1 to phase 2 will happen only if the number of Covid patients in intensive care exceeds the number of beds available.

Fafangel hopes that will not be the case and the transition will not be needed at all. Due to the summer wave of coronavirus, Slovenia is currently in phase 1, he said.

The plan entails 13 measures, including vaccination, treatment, masks, self-testing, isolation and rules for public events.

In phase 1 vaccination is recommended for those over 60, chronic patients and elderly home residents. Flu shots are also recommended. In phase 2, the vaccination recommendations may change and the mass vaccination system may be activated.

Immunologist Alojz Ihan underlined that existing vaccines protected people from a severe course of illness, even though they failed to prevent transmission.

Meanwhile, a new generation of combination vaccines, also containing the Omicron variant, will do a better job at preventing transmission. They are likely to become available in September, Ihan said.

Treatment will focus on protecting those with the risk of severe symptoms in both phases. In phase 2, nothing will change for the population, instead medical staff in other fields will be reassigned to help with Covid-19 patients.

Infectologist Tatjana Lejko Zupanc said remdesivir was currently being used in Slovenia to treat the disease, preventing severe symptoms in many patients. While remdesivir is administered intravenously and requires hospitalisation, the drug Paxlovid will become available in Slovenia soon.

It is in tablet form and can be taken at home. Paxlovid has a number of contraindications with other drugs, but these can be managed successfully, she said.

In phase 1 masks are recommended in all indoor public spaces for potential high-risk patients and obligatory in all healthcare facilities, pharmacies and care homes. In phase 2, masks will become mandatory in all indoor public spaces.

Masks will not be recommended nor mandatory in preschools, schools and universities in either phase.

Self-testing is recommended for those presenting symptoms and those who had been in contact with an infected person in phase 1. In phase 2, mandatory weekly self-testing will be put in place for students throughout the education system.

In both phases, those who test positive have to isolate for ten days. Isolation may end on day seven if the person has a negative test on that day.

Public events will not be banned in either phase, said Fafangel, saying that bans only made matters worse, as events are held in secret and in circumstances that only increased transmission.

In phase 1, those at risk of severe Covid are advised to avoid risky situations. But if they decide to go to an event which they deem higher-risk, vaccination, mask, distancing and other measures are advised.

In phase 2, protective measures, such as mask wearing and distancing, will become obligatory and the number of people at the venue will have to be decreased in line with relevant guidelines.

Talking to the press, Fafangel said the advisory group had worked independently and that the government was being informed about its proposal at the same time as the public. He also expressed confidence that the proposal will be adopted by the government.

Health Ministry State Secretary Tadej Osterc, who was also at the press conference, indicated that this will be the case. He underlined that the government wanted to separated politics from medicine and that it wanted to see recommendations instead of bans.


More from Society